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Tuesday, April 7, 2020

In light of the worldwide efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19, it’s normal to experience feelings of isolation. We at the Cancer Support Community are here to remind you that you are not alone —we are in this together.

Our local affiliates are continuing to provide innovative and compassionate care through telephonic and digital channels. Each location has ensured that support groups, navigation, referrals to resources, and educational offerings are available to all those in need.

At a time when information is coming at us at a rapid pace, we are putting resources for you here, in one place. Below is a list of the resources we have and the actions we are taking to provide support to individuals affected by cancer:

Chat with Cancer Support Helpline Counselors

The Cancer Support Helpline is staffed by counselors and resource specialists who have extensive years of combined experience helping people affected by cancer. All of our services are provided in English and Spanish.

Our counselors and resource specialists can be reached by phone at 1-888-793-9355 or live chat from Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

As part of the added support people might need due to concerns over the spread of coronavirus, CSC's Helpline will remain open this Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

Stay Connected to Your Virtual Community

MyLifeLine.org allows you to create a private site to keep your community involved in your cancer journey, or join more than 2,000 online discussion board members supporting each other with information, opinions, stories, and inspiration.

Get Updated Evidence-Based Information for People Impacted by Cancer

Situation Snapshot: 

  • Cases of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) are spreading across the United States and in other places of the world.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) declared on March 11, 2020 that COVID-19 is a pandemic, as the spread is occurring worldwide.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the immediate risk of being exposed to this virus is still low for most people, but as the outbreak expands, that risk will increase.
  • People with an increased risk of being exposed to the virus include:
    • People in places where ongoing community spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been reported
    • Health care workers depending on their location
    • People who have had close contact with persons known to have COVID-19
  • People who are at a higher risk of getting very sick if exposed to COVID-19 include:
    • Older adults
    • People with serious chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, cancer (especially blood cancers)
  • While there is not yet a COVID-19 vaccine, there are easy actions that all individuals can practice to help prevent the spread of the virus.
  • The Cancer Support Community (CSC) is monitoring the situation and will continue to provide evidence-based information for people impacted by cancer. For up-to-date information, we encourage people to visit the CDC COVID-19 website.

The CDC is closely monitoring an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus (named SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19) that was first detected in Wuhan City, China and which continues to expand, including confirmed cases within the U.S.

For many cancer patients and survivors with compromised immune systems, the reporting on this public health emergency may likely be source of anxiety. However, the CDC reports that for most people in the United States, the immediate risk of being exposed to this virus is still low, but as the outbreak expands, that risk increases. It is important to note that people living with cancer (especially blood cancers), those in active treatment and bone marrow transplant patients, have the most significant immune deficits. Medically fragile individuals should make the best decisions for themselves in consultation with their medical team.

This is a rapidly evolving situation and information will be updated as it becomes available.

What is the coronavirus?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that range from the common cold to much more serious diseases. COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans. The complete clinical picture of COVID-19 is not yet fully understood since it’s a new virus.

At this time, there is no vaccine to protect against COVID-19 and no medications approved to treat it. On March 21, it was announced that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the first rapid point-of-care COVID-19 test, that can deliver results in less than an hour.

What are the coronavirus symptoms?

The symptoms are COVID-19 range from mild to severe illness or death. The following symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after exposure:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of Breath

Call you doctor if you develop symptoms or have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or if you have recently traveled from an area with widespread or ongoing community spread of COVID-19.

What is happening in the United States?

  • According to Johns Hopkins University, there have been over 378,000 cases of COVID-19 reported in the U.S., and over 11,800 deaths.
  • Person-to-person spread of COVID-19 was first reported among close contacts of returned travelers from Wuhan but has been spreading throughout all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
  • COVID-19 cases include imported cases in travelers, cases among close contacts of a known case, and community-acquired cases where the source of the infection is unknown.
  • The Surgeon General has stated that epidemic has not yet peaked.

The CDC has advised hospitals in certain areas hard hit by coronavirus to reschedule elective surgeries, and the American College of Surgeons (ACS) also advised hospitals to evaluate all elective surgeries as necessary. These steps are being advised to make room for coronavirus patients and also to conserve the supplies that might be need for coronavirus patient care (including protective gear). The ACS also released COVID-19 Guidelines for Triage of Cancer Surgery Patients that is intended to help institutions and providers who are facing a rising burden of hospitalized COVID-19 patients and a higher prevalence of community infection.

What is the governmental response to COVID-19?

On January 30, 2020, the WHO declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern.” On January 31, 2020, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar declared a public health emergency for the United States to aid the nation’s healthcare community in responding to the coronavirus and President Trump signed a presidential “Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Persons who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus. ” On March 11, 2020 President Trump announced a 30-day ban on foreign visitors from most of Europe in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Also on March 11, the World Health Organization declared that COVID-19 is officially a pandemic as the spread is occurring worldwide.

On March 13, 2020 President Trump declared a state of emergency. This will allow for faster responses and relief efforts across the United States, as well as provide additional resources for testing and treatment. The White House also released a 15 Days to Slow the Spread  plan, which lays out a set of guidelines for Americans to follow to help slow the spread of the virus.

As state and local authorities have primary jurisdiction for isolation and other public health orders within their respective jurisdictions, it is important to follow your local health authority’s guidance, which can be found on your state government website (which can be found by googling [the name of your state] and government).

How can you protect yourself and your loved ones from the coronavirus?

The CDC has issued guidances to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 and prevent the spread of disease by:

  • Calling your doctor if you are sick.
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an antiseptic hand gel.
  • Coughing or sneezing into a tissue or your elbow rather than your hand. Throw the tissue away.
  • Cleaning frequently touched objects and surfaces with household cleaning sprays and wipes.
  • Stay home as much as possible.
    • Most states have issued stay at home orders, which can be found on your state government website (this information can be found by googling [the name of your state] and government).
  • Practicing social distancing. Keep at least 6 feet of space between yourself and other people.
  • Staying home if you are sick.
  • Avoiding cruise and non-essential air travel.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others.

The CDC has developed guidance to help in the risk assessment and management of people with potential exposures to COVID-19, with information about their current risk assessment below:

  • People in communities where ongoing community spread with the virus that causes COVID-19 has been reported are at elevated though still relatively low risk of exposure.
  • Healthcare workers caring for patients with COVID-19 are at elevated risk of exposure.
  • Close contacts of persons with COVID-19 also are at elevated risk of exposure.
  • Travelers returning from affected international locations where community spread is occurring also are at elevated risk of exposure.

Americans have been advised to practice social distancing and avoid groups of 10 or more people. The CDC also has guidelines regarding group gatherings. Like many issues related to this topic, we advise readers to check back frequently for any changes.

Where can you get more information about the 2019 novel coronavirus?

The CDC has launched a helpful page. If you are traveling, the U.S. Department of State also has reputable, helpful information regarding travel advisories. The CDC also has a timely Travel Health Notices webpage for important travel notifications, which includes coronavirus advisories. Patient advocacy organizations and medical institutions have been addressing the ongoing issue including:

  • Fred Hutch has posted materials on coronavirus for people with cancer.
  • American Cancer Society answers questions about COVID-19.
  • The American Lung Association has information on coronavirus aimed at patients.
  • FDA Oncology Center of Excellence has released a message to patients with cancer about COVID-19 that includes current priorities during this critical time.
  • National Cancer Institute has created a webpage regarding cancer patients and the coronavirus.
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology has resources for oncology professionals on a range of topics, including Medicare policy changes, state policies, private insurer policies, clinical care management, and clinical trial information. 
  • OncoLink has a webpage on cancer treatment in the age of COVID-19.
  • Survivornet has an article aimed at helping cancer survivors understand the risks of coronavirus.
  • Cancer.net has an article regarding what people with cancer need to know about coronavirus.
  • MD Anderson Cancer Center has launched an informative piece regarding cancer patients and the coronavirus.
  • Triage Cancer's website has blogs about practical and legal issues that may impact individuals diagnosed with cancer during the COVID-19 outbreak.

In an effort to to make data about the virus more widely available, on March 13, the White House's chief science and technology adviser, Kelvin Droegemeier, and his counterparts in 11 nations asked scientific publishers to provide open access to articles on coronavirus, including information about treatment of those with COVID-19.

Editor’s Note: This section has been updated on April 7, 2020

References

World Health Organization. Novel Coronavirus 2019. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Situation Summary. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/summary.html.

Learn About Policy Updates

Our Cancer Policy Institute is committed to ensuring the voices of cancer patients and their loved ones are included in all policy making. Read updates from Congress and follow CSC’s easy-to-understand explanations of recent news and policies.

As state and local authorities have primary jurisdiction for isolation and other public health orders within their respective jurisdictions, it is important to follow your local health authority’s guidance, which can be found on your state government website (which can be found by googling [the name of your state] and government). Additional information around state action and legislation can be found on the National Governors Association website on coronavirus, the National Conference of State Legislatures coronavirus resource page, and the National Federation of Independent Business State News Releases webpage.

On March 20th, in response to the coronavirus crisis, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin announced that the US tax filing deadline is moving to July 15. This provides an additional three months to file taxes.

For breaking updates on COVID-19 policy news and opportunities to engage, follow us on Twitter. Find us @CSCCancerPolicy.

Helpful Information for Patients and Caregivers

Frankly Speaking About Cancer radio show: Spotlight on Coronavirus: Your Questions Answered

Managing Stress from Cancer: Stress and anxiety go hand-in-hand with a cancer diagnosis. Learn more about how to manage the stress that can come from living with and beyond cancer.

Thoughtful Human: COVID-19 Tools, Resources, and Products, including free community connection signs.

Coping with Anxiety & Depression webinar: This program covers ways to cope with the anxiety and depression that often accompany cancer. A psychologist and a social worker will both present information to help, then a patient will share her perspective.

5 Videos to Help You Manage Stress: A cancer diagnosis can be stressful. Here are five of our favorite videos from patients and caregivers offering helpful tips for managing stress.

Managing Fear: One of the most common feelings reported by survivors is the uncertainty that their cancer will return. Read more for strategies about how to manage the fear that can come with a cancer diagnosis.

Stories and Insights: Stories connect people. Our MyLifeLine members shared their experiences with the intention of providing encouragement, inspiration, and hope to others affected by cancer.

Support From A Distance: Even if you live far away, you may find yourself in the position of overseeing your loved one’s care or you may share caregiving duties with others. This booklet is written to help you navigate the issues that arise from a cancer diagnoses. Cancer can be traumatic for everyone involved, and caregivers, near and far, can play a vital role in providing comfort, hope and support.

The Cancer Support Community provides the content on this webpage for informational purposes only. The information does not constitute medical or legal advice, and is not intended as a substitute for consultation with a licensed medical professional. Please follow the guidance and of state and federal health officials.

Category: Health

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This episode features questions we received from cancer patients and caregivers about the spread of the virus and its impact on the lives of people living with cancer specifically.